Louisville’s Greatest Matches: Nova vs. John Cena

Crybaby Chris Alexander told me about this match when I was working on Bluegrass Brawlers. I honestly am not sure why this story did not make it into the book, other than I simply forgot about it.

Cena was “The Prototype,” an unstoppable monster heel who had run over every challenger in OVW. Nova was the new guy, a veteran of ECW looking for a new start with OVW and the WWE. His first night at OVW, he got a shot at the champion.

Alexander was backstage that. Danny Davis walked over to him, wearing a big smile. “Hey Chris,” he said, “Do you want to know how to put a new guy over in one night? Just watch.”

The First Scaffold Match

The scaffold match is the one match the WWE won’t touch because it’s too dangerous. The Road Warriors and the Midnight Express made the match legendary, but did you know the first scaffold match took place in Louisville, Kentucky?

The video’s a bit dark (because Louisville Gardens wasn’t well lit in 1971) but here, in three parts, is the first ever scaffold match featuring Jerry Jarrett and Don Greene, one of many historical moments mentioned in Bluegrass Brawlers.

Part 2:

Part 3:

“The Black Panther” Jim Mitchell

The Black Panther Jim MitchellOne of the wrestlers I discovered while researching Bluegrass Brawlers was a man named Jim Mitchell. Born in Louisville, Kentucky, Mitchell was one of the early African American pioneers in professional wrestling. He wasn’t the first; that distinction goes to a former slave named Viro Small, who became a star wrestling in New York back in 1874. But Mitchell was one of the first African Americans in the modern era to break the color barrier, wrestling against white opponents for major promotions.

Early in his career, Mitchell wore a hood to the ring. He called himself “The Black Panther,” and he did battle with other non-white wrestlers. He was in good company, frequently doing battle with fellow African American stars Seelie Samara and Gentleman Jack Claybourne.

Mitchell was an athletic and gifted wrestler who proved he could be a draw. After a successful European tour and stops all around the US and Canada, he ended up in Los Angeles and became a regular at the Olympic Auditorium. Mitchell soon found the confidence to lose the mask and even wrestle under his real name.

In the late 1940s the LA promoters took a chance and put Mitchell in the ring against white opponents. Mitchell had to work these matches as a babyface for fear of what might happen outside the ring if he were a heel. It was still a risk, but Mitchell’s battles with white opponents proved to be a hit, opening the doors for others to follow.

His most famous battle took place in 1949 against one of pro wrestling’s greatest heels, Gorgeous George. After George tossed Mitchell from the ring, an angry fan rushed into the ring to take a swing at George. George dispatched the fan quickly, but when he did, the fans rose up and rushed the ring. George and Mitchell slipped through a hidden tunnel to the locker room while a riot, divided largely along racial lines, raged inside the Olympic.

Mitchell and George would meet many times in the coming years. Their in-ring rivalry was fierce, but in the locker room, there was no real rivalry. What’s more, the racism that divided the cities where Mitchell wrestled was non-existent in the pro wrestling locker room. The wrestlers, black and white, were bonded together by the sport they loved and a common adversary: the promoters who paid them. A 1954 account of an appearance Mitchell made in his hometown of Louisville describes a scene where white wrestlers rose to embrace and shake hands with the returning hero.

Mitchell worked a little as a referee in his later years in the business, and he also traveled with future Hall of Famer Bobo Brazil. After retiring from the ring, Mitchell opened a store in the Toledo area called Black Panther Carryout. The walls of the store featured photos and memorabilia from Mitchell’s career, and locals would come in to talk wrestling in addition to shopping. He passed away in 1996 at the age of 87.

Mitchell is an unsung pioneer in the history of pro wrestling. He deserves to be in the Pro Wrestling Hall of Fame as well as the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame.

Jim’s story is told in part in Louisville’s Greatest Show. I’m continuing my research on Jim Mitchells, and my hope is that I can eventually tell his full story. I’m looking for photos, programs, videos, stories, anything I can get my hands on. I’m also hoping to find some folks with first or second hand stories about the man, whether they come from relatives or the relatives of other wrestlers who worked with him.

If you’ve stumbled on this page and you have information about The Black Panther Jim Mitchell, please contact me at johncosper@yahoo.com. I would love to hear from you!

Upset about the Rumble?

esw coverFirst of all… let’s not get so upset we overlook the good.

We got a terrific title match, arguably the best triple threat of all time. And they made a legitimate main event star last night. His name is Seth Rollins.

That said, many people are beyond disgruntled today, and many have gone so far as to cancel their WWE Network subscriptions.

For those who have, and for those who haven’t but are still angry about the Rumble, maybe you should give independent wrestling a try?

Eat Sleep Wrestle is a great place to start exploring wrestling beyond the WWE. After I released Bluegrass Brawlers, I went out to some indy shows to sell the book. I had the opportunity to meet some of the Midwest’s finest indy talent, and I saw some amazing matches. I was so inspired by them, I had to tell their story.

These are not superstars. These are wrestlers. The people profiled in Eat Sleep Wrestle are passionate, driven people who work as hard or harder than anyone you’ll see on Monday Night (tonight excepted, of course).

Eat Sleep Wrestle will introduce you to people like Mad Man Pondo, Chris Hero, Crazy Mary Dobson, Aaron Williams, Ron Mathis, Hy Zaya, Jamin Olivencia, Zodiak, Mickie Knuckles, Cherry Bomb, and Reed Bentley. It will make you realize there is wrestling beyond the WWE, and it will inspire you to follow your own dreams.

Yes, this is a shameless plug, but Raw isn’t live tonight, and you can get it on Kindle or Nook, why not give Eat Sleep Wrestle a try?

Where the wrestlers ate

I had lunch at Clarksville Seafood today, and I’m telling you, it was the best fish I’ve ever eaten. I’ve only had the fish one other time, the first time I ate their back in 2013. Since then I’ve become a big fan of the clams and the oysters. Today I was in a fish mood, and it did not disappoint.

Why am I telling you this on a wrestling blog? Because this restaurant has history. Back in the 1970s and 80s, this is where the wrestlers ate. The stars of Memphis wrestling loved Clarksville Seafood, and many of them made it a Wednesday ritual. They worked Louisville Tuesday night, and they ate Clarksville Seafood for Wednesday lunch before driving to Evansville.

Jim Cornette still eats there. So does Kenny Bolin. It’s the only reason either of those Kentucky residents will cross the river into Indiana.

Clarksville Seafood is a Southern Indiana institution. It opened as the Cape Codder nearly 40 years ago. If you walk in the front door, you’ll see the original menu in a frame – just above a framed copy of the book cover for Bluegrass Brawlers. Yes, the restaurant is mentioned in the book. It’s one of the few landmarks from Louisville’s wrestling past you can still visit.

The decor hasn’t changed since the Cape Codder first opened, and yes, everything is deep fried – even the veggies recently added to the menu (the first additions since the place opened in the early 70s). If you like seafood, it’s worth a visit, and if you’re really lucky, you might just run into a legend.

Louisville’s wrestling past

If you’ve read Bluegrass Brawlers, you already know some of the tales from the 1930s-1950s about Heywood Allen and the Allen Athletic Club. This coming year I am doing more research on the Allen Club and “that gang of Allen’s” that brought pro wrestling legends like Lou Thesz, Orville Brown, Bronko Nagurski, Buddy Rogers, Baron Leone, Mae Young, June Byars, Mildred Burke, Fritz von Erich, and many more to Louisville every Tuesday night at the Columbia Gym.

I am putting this post out in the hopes I can track down relatives, descendants, or other folks who might have info on Allen and his various cohorts. The names I have (so far) are listed below who were part of Allen’s gang (or his story in general). If you have information on any of these folks, please message me and let me know. I would love to hear from you!

Heywood Allen

Heywood Allen, Jr.

Francis S. McDonough

“Miss Betty” Bessie McDonough

Kid Scotty Williams

Blacksmith Pedigo

“The Black Panther” Jim Mitchell

Stu Gibson

George Lewis

Wild Bill Cantrell

Sgt. Buck Moore, LMPD

Johnson S. Mattingly (former KY Athletic Commissioner)

Mel Meiners

Punk vs. Hero

This is one of the greatest matches that most fans have never seen. An outstanding duel more than a decade old featuring CM Punk and his greatest rival, Chris Hero. This one gets a mention in Bluegrass Brawlers and is on the short list to be featured in a new book I’m starting soon. Block out an hour of time, get a snack and a drink, and enjoy an indy masterpiece.

Two Years Ago Today

BluegrassBrawlers-coverIt was two years ago today I went to Ohio Valley Wrestling’s last TV taping of the year. That night I met up with Erin, an old friend who has been a fixture behind the OVW concessions counter for years, and told her my intention to write a book about Louisville wrestling.

Six days from now, many wrestling fans in Louisville and elsewhere will find that book, Bluegrass Brawlers, under their Christmas tree.

It’s fitting that today is the day I officially launch this blog. I’m very excited to continue sharing stories about wrestlers and wrestling, past and present.

And if you enjoy Bluegrass Brawlers, there’s much more to come!